Extensive studies in vertebrate cells have assigned a central role to Rel/NF-kappa B and AP-1 family members in the control of apoptosis. We ask here whether parallel pathways might function in Drosophila by determining if Rel/NF-kappa B or AP-1 family members contribute to the steroid-triggered death of larval salivary glands during Drosophila metamorphosis. We show that two of the three Drosophila Rel/NF-kappa B genes are expressed in doomed salivary glands and that one family member, Dif, is induced in a stage-specific manner immediately before the onset of programmed cell death. Similarly, Djun is expressed for many hours before salivary gland cell death while Dfos is induced in a stage-specific manner, immediately before this tissue is destroyed. We show that null mutations in the three Drosophila Rel/NF-kappa B family members, either alone or in combination, have no apparent effect on this death response. In contrast, Dfos is required for the proper timing of larval salivary gland cell death as well as the proper induction of key death genes. This study demonstrates a role for AP-1 in the stage-specific steroid-triggered programmed cell death of larval tissues during Drosophila metamorphosis.